Energy: Biofuels

House of Lords written question – answered on 21st March 2007.

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Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Spokesperson in the Lords, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the targets for United Kingdom market share of biofuels include all biofuels, irrespective of their different carbon emission mitigation benefits; and

Whether they support the expansion of (a) domestic production of biofuels, and (b) importation of biofuels for use in the United Kingdom; and whether this is primarily for reasons of climate change mitigation or for reasons of energy security; and

What assessment they have made of the potential for emissions mitigation from transport from the use of blends of biobutanol in fuel; and

Whether the introduction of the renewable transport fuels obligation will be accompanied by a reduction of fiscal incentives to produce biofuels.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

The Government support biofuels primarily because of the carbon savings they can offer. Biofuels also offer a number of ancillary benefits, including contributing to the diversity and security of the UK's transport fuel supplies and creating opportunities for the rural economy.

The renewable transport fuel obligation (RTFO) will, in its early years, reward all biofuels equally, irrespective of the carbon savings they offer. It will, however, include a requirement on transport fuel suppliers to report on the environmental impacts and lifecycle carbon performance of any biofuels for which they wish to claim certificates. Over time, the Government are proposing to move to a system where the RTFO rewards different biofuels according to their environmental performance. The RTFO consultation document published on 22 February, and available in the House Libraries, seeks views on this issue.

The biofuels that will be needed to meet the RTFO's targets are expected to come from a mixture of imports and domestic production. A number of UK biofuel production plants have come on stream since the announcement of the RTFO and several more are at the planning and development stage.

Fuel duty incentives are a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor announced in Budget 2006 that, over time, the Government expect that the emphasis will move from the duty incentive towards the buy-out price as the principal support mechanism for biofuels in the future.

Biobutanol has a number of potential advantages over bioethanol, including its ability to be used at up to a 10 per cent blend without any modification to existing vehicle technology. It also has a higher energy content than bioethanol, and has the potential to be more easily incorporated into the existing UK fuel supply infrastructure. The Government have not, however, carried out any detailed assessment of the extent to which biobutanol could reduce total emissions from road transport. Its total emissions benefits would, as with all biofuels, depend on the nature of the feedstock from which it was produced, as well as the energy used to cultivate, process, refine and transport it.

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